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The FBI is investigating vandalism at a mosque in Harrisonburg, Va., which was spray-painted with obscene graffiti. Obscene language and pictures, along with the phrase, "This is America" were scrawled on the the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley.
"Nothing should be off the table," says Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, calling for a full federal investigation. "We should follow every lead because we are about the safety of the community."
The FBI is assisting local authorities in the investigation, according to Lawrence Barry from the FBI office in Richmond.
The council has seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment on social media. Awad believes the acts stem from misplaced anger over extremist activity in the Middle East.
"Whenever there is tension abroad with some Muslims, American Muslims pay the price through acts of vandalism, hates crimes, acts of discrimination," Awad says.
Awad visited Harrisonburg on Sunday, and also went to a mosque in Falls Church where authorities were wondering whether a rash of car vandalism were hate crimes. In addition to the graffiti at the Harrisonburg mosque, Fairfax County Police say more than two dozen cars were damaged within a 3 mile radius of the Falls Churh house of worship. That now appears to have been random.
Vulgar graffiti also was discovered at a high school and a Christian school, according to the Associated Press. Local police say it's not clear that the vandalism was directed at Muslims. Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson calls the graffiti the work of "local knuckleheads'' that "would be offensive to a wide range of people.''